Category: Police-Public Safety

Mayor, OPD Face Questions on Continued Racial Profiling

Oakland police

By Ken Epstein

Mayor Libby Schaaf’s administration and the Oakland Police Department are facing questions about whether they have a serious plan to end racial profiling by police of African-American residents, who make up the overwhelming majority of local residents stopped by OPD for no reason at all.

The issue came up sharply at the City Council’s Public Safety Committee meeting last week when Deputy Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong—speaking for OPD—addressed the public’s concerns about the persistence of the high percentage of Africans who are racially profiled by the police.

Deputy Chief LeRonnne Armstrong

“When you practice precision-based or intelligence-based policing, you have to focus in on those who are committing crimes,” he said.  “The disparity exists based on who commits crimes in this city.”

In response, Councilmember-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan sent a tweet last Tuesday calling for the administration and OPD to retract the comment:

“This comment is offensive and untrue—and OPD leadership and (the) Oakland administration should formally retract this claim. Black people are being pulled over, searched and even arrested, when there is no crime and no cause for suspicion,” said Kaplan.

Deputy Chief Armstrong clarified his comment in an interview with the Oakland Post:

“I think some people took the comment out of context. I apologize that the community has had to endure a comment that was taken in that way,” he said, pointing out that he is from the community and has had to experience unfair policing practices while growing up.

Continuing, he said, “The chief and I have been very committed to doing everything we can to reduce these disparity numbers. We are making far fewer stops than we

Desley Brooks

were making even a year ago.”

“We are not satisfied with the disparity numbers,” he said, adding that the department is holding more training for officers on diversity and around procedural justice. He said people are stopped for something they do, not because of their race.

It is important for officers to explain to people the reason they were stopped, so they will know that “it was not racial but some behavior that occurred,” which caused the stop, he said.

Mayor Schaaf did not respond to the Oakland Post’s questions. However, her office said she “addressed the issue directly at a Public Safety Town Hall… last Thurday.” The event had not yet been posted by OPD by the Post’s deadline.

Rebecca Kaplan

In an interview with the Post, Councilmember Kaplan raised concerns about the Schaaf administration’s reliance on the work of Stanford consultant Jennifer Eberhardt to end racial profiling by OPD.

“They are still disproportionately pulling over and questioning Black people, not based on the possibility of a particular crime being committed,” she said.  “It is time to demand an end to suspicionless stops.”

The trends indicate that fewer people are being stopped by the police, but African Americans are still stopped the most.

Police non-traffic stops have fallen between December 2016 and November 2017 from 14,259 to 11,219, a 21 percent decrease.

“Very little progress has been made as the share of Africans (in non-traffic) stops (has increased) slightly from 66 percent to 68 percent” of total stops, according to a PowerPoint presentation presented to OPD in February 2018 by the Stanford Technical Assistance Team.

(See http://www2.oaklandnet.com/oakca1/groups/police/documents/webcontent/oak069090.pdf)

In the six months between June-November 2017, 5,259 African Americans were stopped by police—1,161 less than the previous six months.

According to the researchers’ PowerPoint, “Reducing disparities in policing outcomes is notoriously difficult because they are multiply determined, including by sociological factors outside of the police’s control. But changing policies to reduce (total numbers) can make an immediate difference in terms of impact on populations of color.”

The City Council voted this week to extend Eberhardt’s contract over the objections of the Public Safety Committee, which wanted to look into what the city is going to do to end racial profiling before approving the $500,000, two-year agreement.

“There’s no explanation at all of what this contract is supposed to be doing,” said Kaplan. “We’ve had the contract for four years. Why is it not working?”

At last week’s Public Safety Committee meeting, Couincilmembers Desley Brooks and Noel Gallo questioned approving a contract without a full discussion.

“People who appear to have done nothing (illegal) have been stopped by police because of their race. That is not acceptable. And the mayor should not think that it’s acceptable,” said Councilmember Brooks.

“Why doesn’t the mayor want to address the issue? Asked Brooks. “She said she is concerned, and this is important work, but she isn’t interested” in discussing the substantive issues.

Mayor Schaaf released a statement to the media late Wednesday afternoon thanking the City Council for renewing the consultant’s contract.

“Dr. Eberhardt’s intensive and transparent research will continue to advance policies that change the impact of policing communities of color,” she said.

“Dr. Eberhardt’s work has helped OPD dramatically reduce the number of stops of African Americans, which contributes to improved police-community trust.”

Published July 30, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Independent Police Commission Wins – Mayor Schaaf’s Staff, Attorney Parker Overruled

Gentrification and police abuse linked

“(This) enabling legislation … assures that the staff and the legal adviser will operate under the supervision of the commission and not the city administration,” says Rashidah Grinage of the Coalition for Police Accountability.

By Ken Epstein

The City Council gave final approval this week to an ordinance that will allow the newly formed Police Commission to function independently of the Oakland Police Department and City Hall administrators who work closely with OPD.

The “enabling” ordinance, which passed 6-1 at Tuesday’s council meeting, lays out guidelines for the commission that were not covered in Measure LL, an amendment to the City Charter approved by 83 percent of the voters in 2016.

John Jones III

Voting in favor of regulations that require commission staff to report to the commission and not to the City Administrator and the City Attorney were Councilmembers Larry Reid, Rebecca Kaplan, Lynette Gibson McElhaney, Dan Kalb, Abel Guillén and Noel Gallo. Annie Campbell Washington voted no.

At its first reading at the last council meeting in June, the measure passed over the objection of the City Attorney’s office and a legal consultant hired by the City Attorney.

At Tuesday’s council meeting, the ordinance passed despite the City Administrator’s last-ditch attempt to defeat it.

City Administrator Sabrina Landreth, who had served as police chief for months as OPD tried to recover from the fallout over its notorious sex abuse scandal, told councilmembers that despite the passage of the Measure LL charter amendment, the commission cannot operate independently of her and City Attorney Barbara Parker.

Mike Hutchinson

“The ordinance contains provisions that violate the City Charter,” she said. “It is important that we reflect carefully on the impact of something that erodes the integrity of our City Charter, the equivalent of our city’s constitution.

The enabling ordinance violates the city charter “as it relates to administrative functions,” she said.

Councilmember Kaplan, a strong backer of community efforts to bring police accountability to Oakland, defended the enabling ordinance as written.

“I urge that we hold strong and adopt … police enabling legislation and respect the voters of this city, respect the (police) commissioners themselves who have requested items (in the ordinance) and respect the principle of independent oversight,” she said.

The police commissioners themselves have said they need staff who are “independent and who can be relied upon by the commission to be working for them and not be in the same chain of command as the police department,” she said.

Continuing, Kaplan said, “In law, there is always potential for dispute, and there are always gray areas. But as this was a voter-approved ballot measure, the will and intent of the voters is also important. And it was clearly the intent to have independent (police) oversight.”

“We need to have police accountability all the way to the top,” Kaplan continued. “This is a chain-of-command-based organization, and most of what is done is done because it is ordered to be done.

“The commission has to have independence from the full chain of command,” she said.

During OPD’s sexual misconduct scandal, “it was a decision at the very top of the chain of command to let the senior officials involved not be punished,” she said.

During the ICE raid in West Oakland, OPD participated, but it was because of a decision of individual officers,” said Kaplan. “They were assigned to go. There was a decision made above to engage in that behavior.”

Members of the Coalition for Police Accountability, who have been working on the Police Commission for more than two years, thanked the council for passing the ordinance.

“Despite the horrors that are going on in Washington, D.C., Oakland is really taking a step forward that the rest of the country will be watching and the rest of the country will hopefully emulate,” said Pamela Drake of the coalition.

John Jones III, who works for the Dellums Institute for Social Justice, connected police abuse to the runaway gentrification that is sweeping the city.

Rebecca Kaplan

“There’s a reason why OPD is under federal review,” he said. “If we go back to 2003, when displacement first started in Oakland, there’s a clear connection between the housing crisis and law enforcement.”

Former Mayor Jerry Brown “wanted to bring 10,000 white affluent people into downtown Oakland (also called Brown’s 10K Plan). A mandate (was) given to get rid of Black people in order to make this city more attractive for developers.”

School activist Mike Hutchinson connected Oakland’s ongoing education crisis to Brown’s gentrification efforts.

“One other thing happened in 2003 that was a direct result of Jerry Brown being our mayor,” he said. “Our school district got taken over by the state. I would argue that the same person who came up with the 10K plan also came up with a version of that plan for education (opening) up our city to outsiders to come in and profit off our backs and destroy our communities. And we still haven’t recovered since.”

Published July 12, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Opinion: City Attorney Should Not Be Allowed to Undermine Police Commission

 

Oakland police

By Larry White, Attorney

Oakland’s City Council is poised to enact an enabling ordinance that would fill in the gaps in Measure LL, which created the Oakland Police Commission and the Civilian Police Review Agency and that was approved by 83 percent of the city’s voters.Our new Police Commission is one of the strongest and most independent civilian oversight bodies in the country. The City Council will take a vote on July 10 that could affirm that independence—or undermine it.

Larry White

The Coalition for Police Accountability drafted the original City Charter amendment and gave it to the City Council, which made changes and put it on the ballot in 2016.

Unfortunately, the messy process of amending the Charter—the back and forth of compromise and re-drafting the measures, as well as the influence of the police union—resulted in language wasn’t always crystal clear.
At least one important item was left out completely—a civilian Inspector General of the Police Department. Another matter was left murky: can the Commission have its own lawyer, or must its lawyer be under the thumb of the City Attorney.

Although Measure LL twice calls for a “non-City Attorney legal advisor,” City Attorney Barbara Parker says that another section of the Charter overrules the voters’ wishes and makes her the Commission’s legal advisor.
That’s a misreading of the Charter, which gives her office the right to represent the Commission in lawsuits against it but does not require the Commission to request legal advice from her.

Oakland’s Police Department has been under the supervision of a federal judge since 2003. In 2015, Judge Thelton Henderson commissioned attorney Edward Swanson to report on why so many Oakland police officers accused of misconduct were never punished.

Swanson found that the City usually lost the arbitrations that are police officers’ last step in discipline.  “Time and again, the City wrote checks to settle civil lawsuits arising out of police misconduct, only to see the City Attorney’s Office fail to uphold discipline for that very same misconduct,” he wrote.

The City Attorney’s office, Swanson charged, failed to prepare cases, delayed in assigning cases to outside counsel, didn’t select outside counsel with police discipline expertise, and failed to prosecute cases vigorously.
The City Attorney’s office didn’t get evidence ahead of time, rarely if ever called civilian witnesses, and didn’t use outside expert witnesses.

Swanson concluded that “the same problems arose again and again—vague policies, incomplete investigations, unprepared attorneys—with nothing done to ensure that the problems were corrected before they arose again.”

Since then, the City Attorney’s office, under intense scrutiny, has somewhat improved its performance. Swanson was still worried. Eventually, Court supervision will end. “The question, then, is how to make sure that when the Court and the key individuals in the City working on discipline have moved on, the discipline system will not revert to its former, ineffectual state,” wrote Swanson.

That was written before the November 2016 vote that created the Oakland Police Commission.  The Commission was designed by people who believed that the City of Oakland had failed for many years to effectively oversee the police and that none of the City’s existing institutions were capable of doing so.

The Commission’s sole mission is to oversee the Police Department, to promote constitutional policing that is free of racial bias and to make sure that police misconduct is punished effectively.

Court supervision, even if it lasts for another decade, is temporary. The Police Commission is here to stay.
The battle for effective civilian oversight goes on.

When the City Council considers approving an ordinance with a lawyer and an Inspector General reporting to the Police Commission, we hope they will heed the wish of the voters and make the Police Commission as independent and effective as it was designed to be.

The Council should also go one step further: put on this year’s ballot a clean-up to Measure LL that settles these matters once and for all.

Attorney Larry White is a member of the Oakland Coalition for Police Accountability.  He served as a Senior Staff Counsel for the California Department of Insurance from 1992 to 2013. His responsibilities included reviewing and commenting on dozens of pieces of legislation every year as well as drafting new legislation and regulations.

Published June 28, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

Community Wins Major Victory for Independent Police Oversight Commission

Police Commission Chair Thomas Smith. Photo courtesy East Bay Express.

By Ken Epstein

The debate at the City Council meeting went on for hours into the night, deciding the fate of the Oakland Police Commission. Would it be allowed to gain strength as an independent body that deliberates issues of police accountability and discipline, in the manner promised by Measure LL when it was passed by 83 percent of the voters in 2016?

Rebecca Kaplan

Or would the commission be required to operate like all other departments and commissions in the city, overseen by the City Attorney and City Administrator, who have not managed to produce a scandal-free police department after 15 years of federal oversight of OPD.

Ultimately, the debate ended Tuesday night in a major victory for the supporters of Measure LL and community members who were determined to hold onto the promise of an independent police commission.

Community members, over 80 of whom signed up to defend the commission, were backed by City Councilmember-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan, who fought hard on the council for their proposal. After two resolutions failed, she backed a resolution that most councilmembers were willing to accept in the face of the determined opposition of both City Attorney Barbara Parker and City Administrator Sabrina Landreth.

The vote was 6-1 in support of the resolution. Kaplan, Desley Brooks, Noel Gallo, Lynette Gibson McElhaney, Dan Kalb and Abel Guillén voted in favor.  Annie Campbell Washington voted “no.”

City Administrator Sabrina Landreth ran the Oakland Police Department for one year after the resignation of successive police chiefs. Photo courtesy of ABC7.

Despite the victory, the conflict might not be settled. The ordinance must pass again at a second reading at the next council meeting, and there are indications that Landreth and Parker may try to influence councilmembers to reverse their position, according to police commission supporters.

The disagreements centered on the content of the enabling ordinance, which will establish the guidelines for how the police commission will function. The commission itself was established by passing an amendment to the City Charter, Measure LL.

The enabling ordinance has been tied up in behind the scenes discussions with city staff for over 18 months since Measure LL’s passage.

Barbara Parker

At the heart of the dispute is whether those who staff the police commission, an inspector general and an attorney, will be hired by and report to the commissioners, who are volunteers, or if the inspector general will report to the city administrator and the attorney to City Attorney Parker.

The whole point of creating the police commission, according to its supporters, was to establish oversight of the police that is independent of the city administration.

Pointing out that the City Administrator Landreth serves as supervisor of the Chief of Police, and the City Attorney represents the police department, police commission supporters argue there is a clear conflict of interest if these two officials are allowed to be in charge of police oversight.

“I feel like a broken record. I keep coming here saying the same thing…We need an independent police commission, and every time I turn around, someone else is trying to undermine that independence,” said Lorelei Bosserman, one of those who spoke in favor of maintaining the independent of the police commission.

“The City Attorney should have no authority over the legal counsel for the police commission. (She) represents the Oakland Police Department. There is an inherent conflict of interest there,” she said.

However, Parker’s legal opinion said the Police Commission’s recommendations for the enabling ordinance the draft ordinance that was already passed once by the City Council are “not in compliance with the City Charter.”

According to Parker in her legal opinion, “The staff who provide services to the commission are under the City Administrator’s personnel jurisdiction because the Charter does not provide an exception to the City Administrator’s jurisdiction.” (For the legal opinions, go the City Attorney’s website: oaklandcityattorney.org and click on the “Opinions and Reports” link.)

Speaking to the council meeting, Chair of the Police Commission Thomas Smith said that in order for the commission to do its job, it needs a “non-City Attorney-appointed legal advisor” and “an inspector general (who) reports directly to the commission—not somewhere else within the chain (of command).”

He said, “When you consider the fact that there is a constant interaction…between the police department and the people who serve the City Attorney, there is a relationship there… Does it have some influence? Is there some bias?”

Councilmember Kaplan, backing the police commissioners’ requests, said, “I think it is very important that we stick to the commitment that was made when this was being written, which is independent oversight.”

“We need independent oversight both so the commission can actually be independent and do the functions it was intended to by the voters and also so the commission can maintain its credibility, so its actions can be trusted and not seen as under the control of anyone who might have a dual role in terms of their management of the police department.”

Councilmember Kalb’s motion to accept the City Attorney’s changes to the enabling ordinance failed to pass, as did Kaplan’s motion to adopt the community coalition’s proposal.

What finally passed was a compromise motion, crafted by Kalb and Kaplan, that contained the two most important provisions of the commission’s recommendations.

Published June 23, 2018, Courtesy of the Oakland Post

Cat Brooks Looks to Community Power to Fuel Her Campaign for Mayor

 

Oakland mayoral candidate Cat Brooks addresses the crowd at the Lake Merritt amphitheater on Saturday, June 16, welcoming the community to a “people’s assembly” on housing. Photo by Sarah Carpenter.

By Sarah Carpenter

Mayoral candidate Cat Brooks is not following the standard campaign path that the public has come to expect locally and nationally – where those who are running for office adopt positions based on opinion pools and “expert” advice of hired campaign staff.

True to her history of grassroots organizing in Oakland, she is building her platform by relying on “people’s assemblies” to help produce solutions to the pressing problems facing Oaklanders.

She hosted a people’s assembly on “Housing the Unhoused & Tenant Protections,” one of the city’s hottest issues, Saturday morning, June 16, at the Lake Merritt amphitheater.
“This isn’t the Cat Brooks campaign, this is the people’s campaign,” said Brooks.

Local activists and residents spoke about the goals they are working toward and what they want Oakland’s next mayor to accomplish to meet the needs of the unhoused.

Multiple speakers supported the Affordable Housing Act, which will appear on the ballot in November. The act repeals the controversial 1995 Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act that places statewide restrictions on rent control for buildings built or heavily remodeled after 1995 (with some exemptions).

 

Steven DiCaprio, CEO and founder of Land Action, spoke about a need for the decriminalization of homelessness and the end of collective punishment (when one person in an encampment commits a crime, and the entire encampment is evicted as a result).

DiCaprio suggested that the City ask its police to stop enforcing trespassing laws (specifically penal code 602) on properties that have been left vacant for years.

Another speaker, Jamie, suggested an anti-speculation tax for those who don’t live in Oakland, but profit from its real estate and the displacement of Oaklanders.

“Our government has been working for the people who own the property, and I would like to see our city council and our mayor work for the residents—the people who live here, the people who inhabit space, the people who are part of the community,” she said.

These ideas and more were written down on a jumbo notepad by a campaign volunteer.
Other ideas included a cap on the rental services fee, more taxpayer money spent on housing the unhoused, workforce housing, and emergency housing for seniors, people with disabilities, and people with children.

Those who missed the assembly may still contribute to the conversation on housing or any other past assemblies by visiting www.catbrooksforoakland.com. Live streams of past assemblies are also available.

Published June 22, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Councilmembers, Community Groups Push Mayor for Funding for Homeless, Job Training and Trash Cleanup

Members of East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods demand the city keep its promises to clean up trash and illegal dumping. Photos by Ken Epstein

By Ken Epstein

As the City Council examines a “midcycle” revision of the city’s two-year budget, community groups are demanding the city allocate money to relieve the suffering of Oakland’s rapidly growing homeless population, clean up illegal dumping and trash in flatland neighborhoods, support job-training for low-income Oaklanders and fund social programs for vulnerable residents by reducing out-of-control spending on the Oakland Police Department.

The budget revisions were discussed at Tuesday’s special City Council meeting and  scheduled to be finalized before the end of June.

Mayor Libby Schaaf and the City Administration, in a move that dampened demands for new spending coming from the community and some councilmembers, released a report showing that the 2018-2019 budget includes a projected deficit of $11 million.

To close the deficit, the City Administrator has asked departments to cut two percent of their expenditures.

At the same time the administration is proposing cuts, it is requesting the council adopt $31.3 million in new spending, including $1 million for the homeless, $27.5 million for new appropriations for affordable housing, $982,000 for trash cleanup, $1.6 million to hire three new staff in the Human Resources Department and conduct a Fire Academy, and $167,000 for two new employees for the Oakland Animal Shelter.

No mention was made in the City Administrator’s report of going over the budgeted spending limit for police overtime by $17 million, which more than accounted for the hole in the city’s budget.

Most of those who spoke at the meeting—residents and councilmembers—called on the city to fund concerns and community needs that they said had been shortchanged or ignored when the budget was adopted last year.

Rebecca Kaplan presented a list of new expenditures she is supporting, including cleanup crews for illegal dumping hot spots, public toilets and expanded support for homeless sanitation, job training and apprenticeship programs and support for the Oakland Animal Shelter.

Kaplan also requested changes in administrative practices that would not cost additional money but would require new ways of relating to the community: proactive trash pickup based on focusing on hotspots, not just responding to complaints; working with congregations and community-based organizations to establish alternative homeless encampments; and utilizing less costly security guards instead of police for City Hall security that is being requested by the administration.

Noel Gallo

The city needs to adopt real homeless solutions that “don’t just push the problem from one underpass to the next, at great expense,” she said.

She was also skeptical of the new horse-mounted police unit OPD is reportedly organizing. She asked: who authorized the “ponies”, how much money is being spent and what fund is the money coming from?

Kaplan also raised concerns that the administration has repeatedly failed to carry out resolutions the Council has passed.

“We on the Council should consider that what actually gets implemented is so different than what we voted for,” she said.

OPD overspending for police overtime “essentially accounts for the entire (budget) gap we are talking about,” she said.

Councilmember Noel Gallo proposed that he and his fellow Councilmembers help pay for homeless and trash services by contributing as much as much half of the $600,000 a year each of them receives from the city to operate their offices.

He also said Mayor Schaaf’s office budget is over $3 million. “The mayor should at least contribute a million dollars from her budget,” he said.
A large group from East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods demanded full funding for their proposals to clean up flatland streets.

“Our children pass through piles of filthy, stinking garbage, human feces and the carcasses of dead animals to walk to school,” said Lidia, a spokesperson for the Congress.
“Some of you live in neighborhoods where this would never be allowed,” she said.

Carroll Fife, also speaking for the Congress, criticized the Mayor’s trash proposals.

“We see the proclamations the Mayor is making to the news media about the wonderful things that she is doing… to address the trash issue. We’re here to say it is not enough. It is not even real,” said Fife.

“You have to be honest with the residents of this city,” she said.

James Vann was one of the speakers with the Homeless Advocacy Working Group (HAWG), which is requesting $4.2 million to provide portable bathrooms, shower facilities and clean water at homeless encampments throughout the city.

The $1 million the Mayor is proposing for homeless services is “a pittance—that’s nothing, and it’s not (even) true,” said Vann.

He said the city’s proposed $1 million in new homeless spending is eaten up by the $500,000 the city owes for work on Tuff Sheds that is already completed. In addition, he said providing sanitary services at one site costs about $250,000 a year.

Speakers for the Anti Police-Terror Project (APTP) called for redirecting some of the money that currently goes to OPD, which accounts for about 43 percent of the general fund.

As little as $10 million taken from police spending would make a dramatic difference in services for the homeless and elimination of trash on the streets, ATPT speakers said.

Posted June 3, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

Mayoral Candidate Cat Brooks Pledges to “Turn the Tables” on Business as Usual in Oakland

Cat Brooks

By Ken Epstein

“It’s time to turn the tables” on the developer- and financier-led displacement agenda that currently runs Oakland, says mayoral candidate Cat Brooks, radio host, actor and justice activist, who wants the city to move in the direction of utilizing its resources to solve homelessness, promote education, build housing that regular people can afford and spend public safety dollars to eliminate conditions that give rise to crime.

Brooks formally kicked off her campaign May 1 on Radio Station KPFA, speaking to Brian Edwards-Tiekert, who until that morning was her co-host on the “Up-Front” driver-time public affairs program on the station.

Taking at least a six-month leave of absence from KPFA, she is focusing on organizing the majority of Oaklanders “who can’t afford to purchase power in City Hall,” she said in the interview.

Win or lose, she hopes her campaign will build “a base of 10,000 … to push to save the soul of the City of Oakland,” Brooks said.

She said her campaign will promote the voices of the unhoused, immigrants and poor people, “who in the last four years have borne the brunt of a neoliberal mayor who has put development over people.”

Central to her program is dealing with “the housing crisis like the epidemic that it is,” mustering the city-wide commitment to turning around the alarming rise in homelessness and uncontrolled rent increases that are displacing tens of thousands of Oaklanders.

“We need to deal with the unhoused crisis in this city like a bomb dropped in the middle of our city – because it did, a gentrification bomb,” she said, calling for the city to build 4,000 affordable units.

“We have to take a stand on the side of our most vulnerable residents,” she continued.

Not a fan of solving crime by increasing policing, Brooks said, “We should actively be walking away from militarized policing and incarceration.”

She said that police funding drains almost 50 percent of the city’s budget, including $30 million a year in unauthorized overtime. A significant amount of that money can be redirected to solve the city’s social problems, she said.

People in Oakland rightfully want to be safe, but the current approach is not working well, she said, adding that there are many car break-ins and burglaries, and the police department’s homicide solve rate is only a little over 30 percent.

Rather than increasing the numbers of police, the city can increase public safety by hiring “community ambassadors,” “training (people) for community safety,” she said, recognizing that “police should not be the solution to every single issue.”

“At the same time, (we should be) reforming and holding accountable the Oakland Police Department, finally for the first time in that department’s history,” said Brooks.

For information on Cat Brooks’ campaign, go to www.catbrooksforoakland.com/

Published May 12, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Activist Cat Brooks Joins Race for Mayor of Oakland

Cat Brooks, co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project and now former host of “Upfront” on KPFA, speaks at the ILWU Local 10 May Day rally on May 1, 2018. Earlier that day, Brooks announced live on KPFA that she is now a candidate in the race to become Oakland’s next mayor, challenging the re-election of current Mayor Libby Schaaf. Photo by Sarah Carpenter.

 

By Sarah Carpenter

Cat Brooks, co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project, is running for mayor of Oakland.

Brooks was a host of KPFA’s “Upfront,” until the final 10 minutes of Tuesday morning’s show, when she had to take a leave due to her status as a political candidate.
Brian Edwards-Tiekert interviewed Brooks as a guest following the live on-air announcement of her candidacy.

She said she has been asked by many grassroots organizations to run for the office of mayor, and until now she has always said no. “And then I said yes,” she told Tiekert.

“Because my life’s work is centered on the needs of the people,” Brooks said in her prepared remarks on May 1, “I am here to announce—today—on International Workers Day that I am throwing my hat in the ring to challenge neoliberal Libby Schaaf for mayor.”

Brooks described her campaign as one that would minimize police spending (currently almost 50 percent of the city’s general fund) to pay for community programs, specifically related to the housing crisis. She said her campaign would treat homelessness as “the epidemic that it is.”

Councilmember-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan, who has been an active in searching for solutions to the city’s housing crisis, responded to the news that Brooks will be in the race for mayor this November,
“I think it’s wonderful,” she said.

Brooks’  May Day announcement coincided with the springtime festival that has since the late 1800s become known as a worldwide celebration of workers’ solidarity,  International Workers Day.

Brooks spoke at the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) May Day rally in DeFremery Park, where  renowned actor, director and activist Danny Glover delivered an impromptu speech in support of the longshoreman and their continued social activism.

The ILWU Local 10 shut down all Bay Area ports in 2010 in protest of the killing of Oscar Grant  by an Oakland BART police officer. This year, family members of Sahleem Tindle and Stephon Clark, two unarmed young men who were killed by police,  attended the ILWU May Day march and rally.

Brooks marched alongside the Tindle family down Adeline St. from the docks to DeFremery Park. She, along with the APTP, has been a leader in organizing to bring about the arrest of BART officer Joseph Mateu, who shot and killed Tindle outside West Oakland BART station in January.

Published May 4, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

East Oakland Organizations Unveil New Grassroots People’s Agenda

Speakers Tuesday evening at the East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods rally at Oakland City Hall were (L to R): Mercedes De La Torre of Communities for a Better Environment, Andre Spearman of Oakland Community Organizations and Vernetta Woods, Oakland Community Organizations Photo by Ken Epstein.

East Oakland residents gathered in front of city hall his week to unveil a community-created East Oakland People’s Agenda.

The agenda, based on community needs, was created Sept. 30 at a Community Assembly of the newly-formed East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods, attended by Oakland residents who live in communities between Lake Merritt and the San Leandro border

The release of the agenda on Tuesday, Nov. 7 was intentional—one year ahead of the 2018 elections— announcing residents’ determination to vote for candidates and ballot measures that align with their agenda.

“We are inspired by the hundreds of East Oaklanders who made our Community Assembly such a fantastic success,” says Sonya Khvann, an EBAYC leader and resident of District 2. “We are ready to fight for the agenda that we created there.”

The East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods is an umbrella organization formed by six of East Oakland’s most prominent community organizations, whose members are fed up with a lack of action on extremely pressing problems in East Oakland—including housing and homelessness, fears about immigration raids, illegal dumping, gun violence and the street-level sex trade, air quality and the lack of green space, school quality and safety, and good jobs for the unemployed.

Beginning in January, members of East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods will start a process of research and trainings to prepare residents to advocate effectively for the People’s Agenda.

“We are in this for the long haul,” says Andre Spearman, a leader with Oakland Community Organizations (OCO) and District 5 resident. “We are serious about building the power we need to be in charge of our communities.”

Evangelina Lara, an EBAYC organizer and a District 2 resident, says the purpose of the Congress is to provide East Oakland with the same kind of clout that more affluent neighborhoods have. “We represent the East Oakland majority,” said Lara. “Politicians are on notice that they need to respond to OUR agenda.”

“Residents from all four East Oakland City Council Districts came together to create this agenda,” says Alba Hernandez, an OCO organizer and a District 6 resident. “Our members are working together to make it come true.”

Published November 10, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

Racial Profiling of African American Motorists Persists in Oakland

 

By Ken Epstein

 

Racial profiling of African American motorists persists in Oakland despite the years of data-filled reports the Oakland Police Department (OPD) has been required to collect and the adoption of reforms suggested last year by Stanford researchers.

In a report on “Racial Inequities in Traffic Enforcement, Fees and Fines” to the City Council’s public Safety Committee Oct. 10, Deputy Police Chief Leronne Armstrong discussed the impact of federal court-mandated reforms on the persistent pattern of Black drivers being stopped by police or stopped and issued citations, far in excess of the percentage of the African American population in Oakland.

“We have seen the number of stops come down, (but) we have not seen a decrease in disparity as of yet,” said Armstrong.

The report found that in 2016, OPD conducted 25,355 traffic stops, of whom 15,082 or 62 percent were African Americans.  Of those African Americans who were stopped, 5,818 or 39 percent received a citation.
Conversely, 61 percent of the motorists were stopped but not cited.

Latino motorists were 5,365 or 21 percent of the drivers who were stopped.  Of those, 2,895 or 54 percent were cited.Whites, by contrast, had low numbers of traffic stops – 2,645 or 10 percent of the total stops, of whom 1,574 or 60 percent received citations.

Councilmembers Rebecca Kaplan (left) and Desley Brooks

2010 Census data indicates that 27.3 percent of the city’s population is Black, 25.4 percent Latino and 25.9 percent White.

Councilmember Desley Brooks and Councilmember-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan raised serious concerns about the failure of OPD to make a dent in racial disparities.

“The report leads us to believe that data, data, data and more data will not solve this problem because we already have enough data to sink a ship,” said Councilmember Brooks, who chairs the Public Safety Committee.

“None of this has moved the needle,” she continued. “I’d like to focus the attention away from numbers to solutions… We’ve been studying this for at least 15 years now. We need to start getting to some real change.”

At issue is not only the excessive numbers of tickets that are issued but also the huge numbers of people who are stopped, she said.

“There is a problem when Africans American have 15,000 stops and only 5,000 were given citations. Something is wrong with that equation,” Brooks said.

“It is Latinos and African Americans who are most heavily impacted by this issue,” she said.  People who potentially haven’t violated the law at all were stopped, and that’s problematic.”

Kaplan, who had requested OPD produce the report on inequities in traffic enforcement, said she was concerned about the economic impact of the fines on Oaklanders.

“African Americans are continuing to be subjected to disproportionate stops,” she said. “And while the report says Oakland is not receiving a large amount of the resulting fines, those people are still being subjected to huge amounts of resulting fines.

“The people who have to pay the fines are still suffering due to Oakland’s conduct.”

To reduce racial profiling, OPD has an ongoing collaboration with Stanford University researcher, which produced a report, “Strategies for Change – Research Initiatives and Recommendations to Improve Police-Community Relations in Oakland, Calif.”

The report, issued in June 2016, made 50 recommendations, 23 of which have been already implemented. All 50 are expected to be implemented by February 2018.

One of the changes is requiring officers to conduct stops based on “intelligence,” which means they should state a reason, have information, before conducting a stop.

“We want them to conduct stops based on intelligence,” said Deputy Chief Armstrong.

Before the reform was instituted, only 2 percent of traffic stops were based on intelligence. Now about 25 percent are, he said.

Mayor Libby Schaaf responded to a request for comment from the Oakland Post,

“I’m proud that the Oakland Police Department is the first department to allow a university to do a deep analysis of traffic stop data and our officers’ body-worn camera footage to help rebuild the community trust necessary to make Oakland a truly safe city,” said Mayor Schaaf. “I am committed to ending racial disparities in policing, and our partnership with Stanford is helping us get there.”

Published October 21, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post